22/12/2023 |

Information management: Corralling the knowledge that drives business processes

Information is an important resource that can make a significant contribution to the success of organizations. The challenge lies in having the appropriate information available at a suitable time, in a suitable place and in the right form, optimized for the target group. This article explains how to achieve good information management.


What is information management?

Information management may seem trivial at first glance, but it actually goes into great depth. The focus is not only on filing structures and communications in companies, but also on the use of information as a strategic resource.

This goes so far that information management is an academic discipline in its own right – with close links to economics and computer science.

Let’s take a closer look at the term and its context.

Definition: Information management

Information management makes effective use of information as a company resource. It includes the collection, processing, storage and destruction of information.

From an economic point of view, the central task of information management is to strike a balance between the demand for and supply of information. Particularly when there is a flood of information (information overload), the important and truly relevant information must be filtered to the top in order to be available to the right people at the right time.

Examples of information management

Information management runs through the entire life of a business.

Here are two examples:

  1. All relevant information should be available for a meeting in order to reach tangible decisions. Scattered and inconsistent information causes confusion and hinders decision-making. To be able to proceed efficiently, all information must be available centrally instead. The task is to ensure that everyone involved receives exactly the right information at an early stage.
  2. In customer service, agents must be equipped with the right information as soon as a customer contacts them with a request. This means that the available data on the customer and their previous concerns should be retrievable in a matter of seconds. A knowledge database containing best practices for the same or similar cases also proves to be very productive. In this case, good information management means satisfied customers.

Strategic information management

Information management is of great strategic importance. For companies, it is important to know who has what information and when.

The focus is on using information as a resource in a targeted manner in order to achieve the company’s strategic goals. This is particularly important in changing market conditions with new developments that require change management processes. Information managers are therefore in high demand primarily in a dynamic environment, such as when there aresignificant digital innovations.

Organizations that implement functional information management develop competitive advantages and make a sustainable contribution to their goals.

Information management and knowledge management

The areas of information management and knowledge management are closely related, but there are some key differences.

For example, information management focuses on handling information efficiently and optimizing information flows. Knowledge management, on the other hand, involves a deeper level: it interprets information and applies it to arrive at concrete solutions and accomplish tasks.

In other words: Where information management is about the exchange of or access to information, knowledge management uses knowledge as a way to offer help and guidance during various processes and procedures.

What both concepts have in common is that they are important for the long-term development of a company. In practice, they often overlap quite signficantly.

Information management in corporate environments

There are a number of challenges involved in handling information appropriately. First, in an age of information overload, it is increasingly important to filter and define requirements for the quantity and quality of information used when making decisions. Second, as companies grow, teams can become more and more siloed, leading to the need for more defined information handling processes.

These make it all the more important for companies to establish a dedicated information management system that supports specific goals and is associated with certain tasks. More on this below.

The goals and advantages

Of course, every organization pursues its own goals with information management. Depending on the individual business needs, requirements of the respective industry, the current situation and developments in the market environment, a company’s focus will be on different factors.

In general, the following objectives are important points of reference.

  • Increased efficiency: This classic corporate objective is also highly relevant for information management. Process optimization, which focuses on communication and information flows, helps people get work done faster. By improving the flow, organization and structure of information, companies can achieve their goals in less time.
  • Improved situational awareness: Information management is primarily aimed at ensuring the excellent quality of the information available. In concrete terms, this means that information should be complete, clear, accurate, unambiguous and up-to-date, allowing each person to have the same understanding of a decision or situation.
  • Better transparency: No matter how well information is prepared, it is of limited use if the right people do not have access to it. The aim must therefore be to save and share information as centrally, visibly and as transparently as possible. In practice, too many tools that are used in an unorganized manner often stand in the way of this.
  • Increased security and compliance: Information management is directly related to security-critical issues. Sensitive information, in particular, must not get out and fall into the wrong hands. Restricting access to information is, therefore, also an important factor – especially if compliance would otherwise be jeopardized.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: Customers do not want to wait a long time for useful information or even be provided with incorrect information. Instead, to provide good service, the right information must be available immediately when needed.
  • Reduced costs: Not only misinformation and misunderstandings, but also too much and poorly managed information, lead to high costs.
  • Better collaboration: If teams and departments want to collaborate effectively, they need sufficient information. There is a direct correlation between information flows and the quality of collaboration.

The tasks and methods

In order to achieve the goals of information management, the right methods are needed. This involves a number of tasks that companies should cover as fully as possible.

  1. Analyze information requirements – what information do we need to be able to work effectively?
  2. Check sources of information – where does our information come from? Which sources are relevant?
  3. Designing information flows – what processes and systems do we need to share information effectively and keep it up to date?
  4. Ensuring information quality – how can we guarantee that everything is accurate, complete and up-to-date?
  5. Have exchanges documented and tracked – can a tool be used to see who has shared which information and when?
  6. Ensure availability – how can it be ensured that all stakeholders are adequately informed?
  7. Keeping data up to date – how can it be ensured that everyone involved is up to date?

In general, these steps are designed to help improve information workflows in organizations. The aim is to view the exchange of information as holistically as possible and to implement optimizations in meaningful places.

Tips for effective information management

Here are some tips to help you manage information successfully.

Tip #1: Set priorities

Not all information is important – and good decisions are not necessarily based on the completeness of information. Based on the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), it is worth focusing more on those information flows that are most relevant to the desired results.

Tip #2: Make information management a priority

In order to function properly, information management must first be a priority. To do this, companies need to recognize its value. Only if sufficient efforts are made can good information management succeed. In other words, information management should not just be on the task list, but a necessity. Too many companies have no real control over their information flows.

Tip #3: Appoint an “information manager”

“Information manager” is now a job title in its own right. It doesn’t have to go so far as to require companies to employ someone who specializes in it. However, it should be a clearly defined and assigned task to operate target-oriented information management.

Tip #4: Share and process information centrally

Information is often scattered and distributed across too many platforms. As this makes it difficult to gain an accurate overview in day-to-day business, information should be available on standardized platforms wherever possible. It is also advisable to store it in a standardized and clear manner. The tools used, folder structures and file names should be as easy to understand as possible.

Tip #5: Operate process automation

“Time is money” – and process automation saves both. This mainly applies to repetitive processes and tasks. A typical and simple case is issuing standardized answers and information to customer requests. However, more complex processes such as the creation of workflows can also be automated.

Tip #6: Record strategies

Once an adequate strategy for handling information is in place, those responsible should record it. With clear documentation and best practices defined, information-related successes can be repeated.

Supporting information management objectives

While information managers are responsible for defining and optimizing information flows, they may need help when it comes time to implement new technology.

Information management vs. information technology

Information management is already closely related to information technology. In fact, IT is what makes the adequate management of information and data possible in today’s business world. In order to operate good information management, the corporate strategy and the IT strategy should be mutually aligned.

IT management is therefore also a frequently used synonym for the term information management. The difference, however, is that IT relates more to the infrastructure and physical tools used to support the defined information flows.

Information management tools

Another critical support for information managers is having suitable software solutions. These can improve information management in concrete terms. Here are some examples of this:

  • Workflow management systems optimize processes and recurring tasks. They save time, reduce errors and keep the handling of information consistent.
  • Knowledge management tools are used to capture, catalog and share information that needs to be reference long-term.
  • Ticketing systems structure request information and facilitate its flow. By adequately summarizing information on tasks, processes and procedures and quickly assigning it to the right people, they enable a great deal of control over information and work outcomes.
  • Security management tools help to implement and manage the right security measures. It ensures the integrity and confidentiality of information.
  • Collaboration tools allow teams to communicate effectively and work together in a dedicated manner. They also serve as a repository for documents and a platform for sharing information.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software centralizes customer information and thus creates the basis for optimized sales and service. They can also be used to manage contacts, track interactions and analyze data.

All in all, targeted information management and the right software support go hand in hand. Dedicated systems are needed to manage information consistently.

Conclusion: Gaining control over information flows

Information management is an essential area for companies. They need to take control over their untamed information so that people can learn about strategic options and contribute to the company’s success.

Businesses tend to set very different goals for information management, with efficiency factors, cost control and security generally being high priorities. Consider its value for your organization and then pursue the development of information systems consistently and continuously. It will have a direct impact on business results.

Centralized tools are naturally very important for information management. It is important for companies to implement the right systems, and include their IT teams in the selection and management of these, in order to enjoy maximum control over their information flows.

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